With a new year come new hopes

A Stadium arises in the Bronx
Torre issues half-hearted defense of his teams

Ten years ago, New York and the baseball world witnessed the pinnacle of success for the New York Yankees. The Bombers, led by no one in particular, went 114-48 during the regular season and 11-2 in October to bring home a World Series Championship in resounding fashion.

That season, Scott Brosius issued one of my all-time favorite baseball quotes. “The core of the team is the team,” he said in a July 5, 1998 article in The Times. The Yanks would go on to win the World Series in 1999 and 2000, but they never did recapture the magic of that record-setting 1998 season. With El Duque and Shane Spencer arriving in the Bronx and a David Wells perfect game in May, it was truly a season for the ages.

When the clock struck midnight a few nights ago, 2008 arrived. Ten years later, the Yanks, despite all of their wins, haven’t had as much success in the first decade of the 2000s as they did in the last decade of the 1990s. From 2001 through 2007, the Yanks are unmatched in the regular season. They are 686-445 with a decade winning percentage of .606, but when the calendar flips to the postseason, everything looks different.

2001: A heartbreaking seven-game loss to the Diamondbacks in the World Series.
2002: A four-game loss to the Angels in the ALDS.
2003: A six-game loss to the Marlins in the World Series.
2004: This did not happen. Really.
2005: A five-game loss at the hands of Bubba Crosby and Gary Sheffield the Angels.
2006: A pathetic four-game loss at the hands of the Tigers.
2007: Yet another four-game loss at the hands of Joe Torre’s inability to get the team off the field when attacked by a Biblical plague of bugs the Indians.

Considering that Yankee fans measure their team’s success in postseason wins and World Series titles, the 686 regular season wins matter far less than their 32 postseason losses since the start of the 21st Century.

But with 2008 upon us, it’s hard not to think about a new era dawning in Yankee history. We have a new stadium on the horizon and a whole slew of young, good players on the rise. We saw teh potential of Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy last season, and we know the Yanks have a very loaded farm system to go with their offensive powerhouse in the Bronx.

It may not be this year; the first full season with three young kids playing vital parts can be touch and go. But you can bet that when the new stadium opens and another new year dawns, the Yanks will be right there where they’ve always been: Playing to win in October and with a very good shot at yet another title. Hope springs eternal in January right now.

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A Stadium arises in the Bronx
Torre issues half-hearted defense of his teams
  • http://riveraveblues.com Mike A.

    The beauty of the offseason; everyone’s tied for first place.

  • jon

    I can’t complain at all about the lack of postseason success in recent years – we were spoiled in the late 90s.

    The postseason is a crapshoot. Like Billy Beane said, all you can do is get there – which the Yankees, of course, consistently have.

    Put it this way:

    Say the Yankees won the World Series in 97, 99, 03, and 06, with losses ranging from the ALDS to the WS in the other years (in the same quantities as in reality). Everyone would be saying “this team is amazing – they make the postseason every year and won the whole thing more than their fair share of times.” But instead, people are bitching, looking for chokers and scapegoats.

    Scott Brosius – an overall pretty awful postseason line (significantly worse than his career totals, which aren’t even good to begin with), but one good series and one big homerun and he’s revered, despite the non-throw which may have cost them the series in 2007 (no offense, because I love the guy also).

    But ARod picks some bad times to slump and all of a sudden the recent Yankee teams “don’t have heart” and don’t have what it takes to win. Give me a break.

    Did Torre make some bad decisions? Sure. So did Chuck Knoblauch in 98. Every team makes mistakes, some mental – it’s part of the game. We have benefited as much from other teams’ blunders (Grady Little) than we have lost because of ours.

    The recent postseason defeats will just make me appreciate the next WS victory that much more.

    • jon

      That’s 2001, not 2007, if it wasn’t obvious (re: Brosius on the bunt play in the 9th).

  • steve (different one)

    agreed. the 4 championships in 5 years was the outlier, not the following 7 seasons.

    there are many yankee fans who simply aren’t old enough to really remember what it was like before 1996. they’ve never known anything but winning.

  • Whitey14

    As a Red Sox fan, I come here because I think a good fan should try to understand the rivalry from both points of view, I respect the yankees and all they’ve done. They are truly the greatest franchise in all of sports history. It scares me to think they are becoming more fiscally responsible and are trying to build through youth again. I believe the last time they did that they ended up with Jeter, Posada, Rivera, Pettitte, and 4 world series titles. It’s very difficult for most Sox fans to understand why yankees fans are unhappy with the past seven years, but when you re-establish a standard of excellence as they did in the 90’s, it’s difficult to accept anything less than Championships. Luckily for us Sox fans, we now know what it feels like for our favorite team to win a world series and we expect the Sox to at least compete for it every year.

    One negative comment though….the yankees did not lose the divisional series because Joba got swarmed by midges. It was one inning, in a four game series. They had their chances and didn’t capatlize on them. I won’t make excuses when the Red Sox lose games/series so I won’t accept them when the yankees lose games/series. Sorry, but that’s my philosophy. I think it’s fair and that’s all I aim to be with regard to the Sox/yanks rivalry.

    Happy New Year!

    • steve (different one)

      i’m pretty sure that was supposed to be somewhat facetious.

    • http://riveraveblues.com Mike A.

      What the…a Red Sox fan that doesn’t post complete nonsense? You’re welcome here anytime Whitey. Some of your brethren…not so much.

      • Whitey14

        Thanks Mike. I agree that when Sox and yanks fans start spouting bologna, or thinking too much with their hearts instead of their heads, these message boards can be difficult to read. I don’t have any problem with yankee fans. You love your team and I love mine and I can respect that.

  • http://riveraveblues.com JimT

    Man, by the time the Yankees get into thier new staium they are going to be one old team. Six of thier current everyday players will be north of 35 years old by seasons end. And Rivera will turn 40 during the year. The Yankees better have a “stacked” farm system otherwise these guys will breaking into Andy Pettite’s HGH stash just to stay on the field.

    Contrast that with the Red Sox who will have at least 4 everyday players under 30 and 6 pitchers making solid contributions all 29 years old or younger. In fact the only Red Sox current starter that will be as old as 35 in 2009 is Manny Ramirez.

    Your farm system had better start to perform or you Yankee fans are going to spend a lot of time waxing about “The Good Old Days”.

    • steve (different one)

      Varitek is 35. Lowell is 34 next season.

      Lugo is only 31, but he still SUCKS.

    • http://yankeesetc.blogspot.com/ Travis G.

      oh yeah, such as young team with guys like Schill, Manny, Varitek, etc. they soon might have have to get friendly with Ortiz’ juice-dealer.

      the Yanks could have 60% of their rotation under 25 as soon as this year. so please, think before you talk.

      • GoTerpsGo

        The Wanger (28) isn’t entirely geriatric either. :)

  • http://slidingintohome.blogspot.com Greg Cohen

    Great post Ben…

    JimT you are forgetting the fact that the farm system IS performing quite well.
    In the last four seasons the Yankees have had Chien Ming Wang, Robinson Cano, Melky Cabrera, Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy, among others, all have come out of the farm system to become major contributors of this team. With many more players on the horizon the Yankees should be “stacked” with young talent for years to come.

    Then they can always hit the free agent market, or make a trade to fill any other holes the team may have.

  • mike

    With respect to JimT – the only guy the Sox will regret not having on their team in 2009 is Manny, who changes the dynamic of that lineup and allows Ortiz to be a terror, and is on base 40% of the time for Lowell to drive him in! Frankly, if the Sox system is producing the likes of Pedroia and Ellsbury ( both of whom will be nice players but have skills that can be found on any team) as offensive replacements for Manny and Tek, as a Yankee fan I will take that 2x today and 3x on Sunday.
    While I think the Sox pitching will be tremendous for the next 4-5 years ( although it may be a tad overrated with Dice-K, Lester and Wakefield on the staff), I think they will need to pick up their offense to get through the coming seasons, as Lugo, Drew and Youk do not make a lineup – especially with Ortiz clogging the DH. Also, it is not as easy to pick-up a slugger off the trade market as it was a few years ago, so the Sox beter spend some time thinking of their offense in the future, or they could be an incarnation of the early 70’s Mets!
    As a Yankee fan, while I am not sucked-up in the “3 Amigos” of youth pitching drama (which are being horded like water before a hurracaine) and while I still believe Robbie Cano should be traded – while its hard to get comp. value, I just do not believe he will ever be a “winning player” – I have to admit it is nice to see objective people rate the Yanks minor leagues ahead of most others. I remember the Leyritz, Stanky, Millitello, Wade Taylor, Maas etc. years, where the hype was not justified, but it now appears there are enough arms to help them in the future.

    • steve (different one)

      i wish Ortiz was “clogging the DH” for the Yankees.

    • steve (different one)

      while I still believe Robbie Cano should be traded – while its hard to get comp. value, I just do not believe he will ever be a “winning player”

      sorry, for a minute, i thought i was supposed to be taking this post seriously.

  • mike

    Point taken for this year ( and maybe next….) for Ortiz, but as we have seen with Giambi – big unathletic fellas with a poor glove go from valuable to clogging the DH really fast, and with the Sox especially unable to rest any other player in the DH hole because of Ortiz, this has the chance to become a liability really quickly – and we saw him begin to suffer those silly injuries last year too.

  • mike

    Further, IMO,Ortiz at 35/120 is really an asset, but at 27/95 – combined with his lack of fielding ability / inability to rest players in the DH – I think you get to the tipping point, and I think Papi – with silly injuries to a big guy which don’t keep him out of the lineup but slow him down, age itself, Manny-being-Manny and potentially leaving when contract is up – is closer than we think

  • http://riveraveblues.com JimT

    Hi Greg:
    You make a great point with Wang and Cano, both have been outstanding performers and one can see Cano getting even better. Maybe its because I’m a Sox fan, but I just don’t see that much in Melky Cabrera. To me he is an average player in a great line up. To use a Bill Parcells term he’s a JAG (Just Another Guy). Put him on the Kansas City Royals and he would be an afterthought.

    Here is my real beef however, all three of the pitchers you named look like interesting talents. But in Yankeedom they have become the “Holy Trio”. I just wish that these guys win at least 10 games at the MLB level before they are elevated to superstar status. I read one blog where the writer predicted all three to win 18 games each next season.

    Also, people on this blog get all bent out of shape when the Yankees don’t have 3 of the top 10 or 10 of the top 100 prospects on these list that get published. Its almost as if no other team except the Yankees ever have a valuable prospect.

    Anyway, that’s my vent. Good luck with a staff with perhaps as many as three rookies in the rotation. If they all pan out, I’ll come back on the blog and take my medicine.

    • steve (different one)

      so in one post you are mocking the yankees for being too old, and in the next post you are sarcastically wishing them “good luck” with 3 rookies in the rotation.

      i find it amusing that you think the Sox are a young team.

  • http://riveraveblues.com JimT

    You can trade Cano to the Red Sox anytime you like. We’ll find a spot for him!

  • mike

    Steve:

    I love Robbie’s bat when he forgets he is not chasing mosquetos, love his arm, and I have never seen a 2nd baseman stay in on the double-play as he does. However, I do remember the Angels series in the playoffs a few years back where Mr. Cano giveth-and-taketh away in the field a few times in key spots, and until last August I was waiting for him to get a hit in a big spot, and actually understand situational-hitting. I think he is a tad flakey and to have a potential superstar-skillset and basically mail in the 1st half of your season each year is unacceptable. Finally, can the man walk a bit? Maybe pay attention to a sign? He makes Posada look like Billy martin with his poor game-awareness. Also, every time Torre tried to get cano and his bat out of the bottom 3rd of the lineup, he choked and went into a funk for a week. Can I replace his offense at 2nd with basically a free contract? No, and I recognize that. However, apples-to-apples in a trade, if I could get equal value and fill another hole ( whether it be in a package for Cabrera before he was traded, or Santana and keep Hughes etc.) I would pick up a Loretta and I think we would be in a better spot.

    • steve (different one)

      sorry, i wasn’t clear. i was not objecting to you saying you would trade Robbie in the right deal. that’s your opinion, and while i might disagree, that’s ok for you to have that opinion.

      what i was specifically objecting to was saying Cano will never be a “winning player”.

      sorry, i just think that is completely unfair.

      you are criticizing him for a playoff performance against Anaheim as a 22 year old rookie? really? seems a little harsh.

      and he doubled his walks this year.

      remember, he is still just 25. he is going to finally put together 2 good halves this year, and you will be happy the Yankee held onto him. that’s my opinion. he’s going to rake this year.

    • RollingWave

      Mike: a. your letting perception of their supposed weakness (and most o what you meantioned are intangible from a few games you watched on TV!) b. you do realize that your trading a serious potential HOF 2B… right?

      let’s just throw up what Robbie has done now after the season age of 24 and compare to the modern day HOF 2Bs (Morgan, Carew, Molitor, Sandberg) and potential HOFs (Alomar , Biggio, Kent).. i’m just going to simplify it into ops, games played, hits and HR

      Robbie: .835 / 406 / 509/ 48
      Morgan: .785/ 421 / 438 / 25
      Carew: .775/ 398 / 498 / 21
      Molitor: .762/ 430/ 534 / 26
      Sandberg: .745/464/ 538 / 34
      Alomar: .756/ 744/ 862 / 39

      I’m not even going to go into Kent and Biggio, who both had late starts to their career and is nothing at the same point relative to Robbie.

      I hope you could see that not only did Robbie destroy everyone of these HOFer in terms of OPS and HR. he also happen to have more or around the same hits as everyone save Alomar (who had 2 more full seasons worth of games than Robbie ) you do realize that two of the guys he’s beating in hit rate went on to have 3000 hit careers and ALL of them had more than 2300 hits. oh yeah his 1.25 hits per game also roughly ties him with Molitor for the best in that catagory. the same Molitor that ended with 3300 hits…

      I’m not saying Robbie will make the HOF, until his peak really shows up we can’t tell. and there have surely been cases of 2Bs with great start that fell off fast (Baerga , and to a lesser extend, Vidro ) but if your going to gamble on a under 30 2B making the hall right now, Cano is clearly the top 2 choice and his count stats is a lot more favorable than Utley. who’s only about 2/3 worth of a season’s hits ahead of Robbie but 4 years older (but he does have a near MVP and a great current peak to his credit, if Robbie’s peak is anything close to what Utley’s is he’s got a MASSIVE chance of going in.)

      I’m sorry, i’m not trading a 24 year old that’s really building a legitimate potential HOF case for anyone.

  • Blank

    Steve Shut up

  • Alvaro

    I imagine it’s about time for the “Santana deal to the Red Sox is iminent” bullshit to start percolating from Boston and Minnesota.

    • Whitey14

      Here’s my opinion on prospective Santana deals and remember I’m self admittedly a huge Red Sox fan. Philip Hughes is the best pitcher being offered by either side. I’m not really a big Lester guy. I think he’ll be a serviceable major league pitcher, maybe 13-14 wins a season with an ERA around 4.00 – 4.50 each year. Hughes seems to project more as 16-18 wins and an ERA more like 3.00 -3.50 each year. Ellsbury seems to be the second coming of Freddie Lynn to many Sox fans, but I need to see him for more than a month or two to be sold on him as a Blue Chipper. Melky Cabrera hasn’t impressed me much over the past two seasons. I think he can be blown away with the high fastball or be made to chase curves low and outside. Defensively he seems adequate at best. The other prospects being mentioned by both teams have no service time and can’t be judged properly yet. If Minnesota is willing to deal with both teams, and Santana is willing to play for both teams, then I think the Twins should try to grab Hughes as he’s the best prospect of the bunch. However, I think both boston and New York are having second thoughts about giving up 3-4 prospects and 120+ million for Santana. I don’t think either team will pull the trigger and both will hope to sign him as a free agent. Hopefully he is as tight with Ortiz as it seems he is and that will give Boston the edge.

  • Mike D

    Ben K, thanks for reminding me that ten years has got behind me since the ’98 team! I’m in my 40s and had the “misfortune” of becoming a Yankee fan back in the early 70s when it had been six of seven years since the last great Yankee team and, as it turned out, about six of seven years before the next great Yankee team. For a new fan and a kid, that was a life time, living through the Horace Clarke era. Anyone remember him? For a while, it felt like I might have arrived to the party late! Yet when they won in the late 70s it was well worth it.

    Little did I realize that eighteen years would go by between the ’78 and ’96 championships, and I would move blemishes to a touch of gray. Yet it was also worth the wait because I enjoyed watching them put together the Jeter, Bernie, Andy, Posada, Mariano teams. That’s why I’m going to enjoy watching some of their young pitchers next year, even though I know growing pains are part of the process. I’ve watched enough baseball to know that all three of those guys are not going to work out the way planned, and it’s possible NONE will work out. That’s baseball. I just know that when #27 does rise above the Stadium, whichever one that is, and whenever that is, it will have been well worth the wait and it’ll be fun getting there.

  • Barry

    It’s destiny to win this year, nothing stands in the way of destiny, not even a plague of atrocious bugs.

  • keith

    SSS Alert!

    Robinson Cano the non winner vs CLE
    .333 .375 .800 2HR 12B

    Derek Jeter king of wins vs CLE
    .176 .176 .176 3GIDP

  • mike

    RollingWave:

    Nice post, and I appreciate all the stats to demonstrate that Robbie Cano measures up well against the best offensive second-basemen of the last 30 years. I would say, however, this may also indicate how stats may be interpreted – ie how irrelevant a HOF 2nd basemen may be to winning, as of approx. 90 seasons of combined baseball among those players there is a combined 3 World Series Championships among them, and Molitor was a DH for one of those three. Additionally, in a weird way, this may demonstrate why the Yanks should trade Cano for a Santana-esqe talent if the other team values Cano as much as these stats say they should.

    When I state a “winning player” -I am not the typical “A-Rod is not a true Yankee, I love Jeter” fan – I played baseball through college, and watch basically every inning of every game whenter in person or at the Stadium. I look at Robbie and see a great skill set, yet he is a person who certainly would have benefitted from a few old-school minor league seasons, rather than being rushed to the Majors. How many missed signs can he have? Idiotic baserunning? Swinging at the wrong pitch in the wrong count? Two pitch at-bats? We all see this every game (even though the Yanks announcers will not talk about it as a McCarver would), and its even more apparent when you are at the Stadium and watch the whole field. Im not speaking about lacksadasical fielding on occasion (i think he has gotten thru that period for the most part), but on the same token Im not going to say “he is a youngster” – he is a 25 year old All-Star player with 3+ years of major league experience, surrounded by veteran players and coaches. I expect heads-up, winning baseball from him- along with hitting .300 – which is why I become frustrated with him, because if he is a cornerstone player for the team going forward, this is unacceptable.

    • steve (different one)

      90 seasons of combined baseball among those players there is a combined 3 World Series Championships among them, and Molitor was a DH for one of those three.

      are you forgetting Alomar’s or Morgan’s rings?

  • mike

    Steve -yeah I sh*t the bed on Alomar’s time with the Jays! Figuring Molitor was more of a 3rd baseman anyway with Gantner and Bando around & with Molitor always hurt, still I was surprised at the lack of rings ……

  • giambi’s sweat stain

    “with a new year COME new hopes”

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Ben K.

      Thirty four comments later, someone notices the blaring grammatical error.